One of NDP Leader John Horgan’s promises for the May 9 election is a freeze on BC Hydro rates. Here’s a closer look at BC Hydro rates under the B.C. Liberals and what the effects might be to reining them in.
The Liberals took political control over BC Hydro rates after Christy Clark became party leader, held rates down until after the 2013 election, then hiked them by nine per cent in 2014 and six per cent in 2015.
The current plan is to increase rates by 28 per cent in five years, in the first half of a 10-year-rates plan imposed by former energy minister Bill Bennett. It mandates increases of four per cent this year (already in effect as an interim rate since last spring), 3.5 per cent in 2018 and three per cent in 2019.
After that, the Liberals have promised to return decisions for rate increases to the independent BC Utilities Commission.
The BC Liberal plan also weans the government off the dividend provincial governments have taken since the NDP years, starting this year and reducing it to zero by 2022.
In some years, BC Hydro has had to borrow more to pay the finance ministry its cut.
The Liberals also point to the 1990s NDP government’s BC Hydro rate freeze, and the lack of upgrades to the system during that time.
The John Hart Dam at Campbell River and the Ruskin Dam near Mission are being upgraded to make them earthquake-resistant, while further billion-dollar turbine expansions are underway at newer dams in the Kootenays.
NDP energy critic Adrian Dix said last year BC Hydro should have added a sixth turbine at Revelstoke Dam for $450 million before embarking on the $9 billion Site C dam, the third on the Peace River.
Clark visited a Site C concrete contractor and toured the Peace region early in the campaign, to showcase the 2,100 people working on site and argue for growing clean energy needs.
“Under the NDP, Site C would be dead,” Clark told supporters. “Under the Greens, it would be deader.”